“Just another day at the office,” wrote Nastya Lisansky in the caption to a picture she uploaded to her Instagram account. In it, she can be seen sitting on a sofa, wearing tights, a leather jacket and high-top sneakers, her blond hair cascading from a funny-looking knitted cap. The photo got 380 likes, and one of her curious followers asked Lisansky, “What do you do?” But the question remained unanswered.
Even after a long conversation with Lisansky, 32, what she does isn’t entirely clear. She sells some clothes which she designs in her spare time, she has a niche on the Israel Fashion Channel – but mostly she photographs herself and uploads the photos to Instagram, some in exchange for money or clothes and accessories. She could have been an “it girl” if she hadn’t been, as she herself puts it, “neither ‘it’ nor ‘girl’ − I’m 32, divorced and a mother of two.”
She was born in 1981 and immigrated with her family to Israel nine years later. She studied dressmaking and public relations expertise at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, worked at a number of fashion companies and created her own fashion brand which fell through after only one year. Then she discovered Instagram and the commercial opportunities it offers.
“At first I photographed nonsense,” she says. “It was just food photographs and things like that. But then I realized people were following me because they were finding me interesting, and I began to notice the way I took photographs. Just like a magazine won’t publish bad photos, I began to choose the better shots and take the same picture over and over until I was satisfied with the result.”
She got her first job offer from a friend, Tamar Marcovitz, who had just opened a website for imported brands. “Suddenly I noticed I had more followers than she did, and I suggested that I wear her clothes, upload photos of myself to Instagram and tag them with a hashtag with her company’s name. The idea was successful within seconds, and it became a business.”
Of course, she didn’t invent the method. The format − placing commercial content in one of the last private fortresses left on social networks − has steadily gained popularity, and today models, opinion makers and people with hundreds of thousands of followers photograph themselves with commercial items and upload the photos to the Internet.
“It’s a job just like any other,” she says, “and even if I have a fever, I know I can’t allow myself not to be there.”
After her primary success she began receiving offers from local brands and boutiques, asking her to advertise their products on her Instagram account. “They had tried to photograph professional models and found out those pictures weren’t as successful,” she says.
The arrangement is that the brands pay her or give her clothes in exchange for the pictures she uploads to her profile. “We decide on a time frame, something like a month or two, and the condition is that I choose the items. I come to the store, take things I like, wear them and commit to upload a certain number of pictures. Sometimes I get excited and photograph myself in the items over and over again, especially if I really like them, and of course I write where they’re from.”
But as someone who safeguards her own brand, in other words the image she cultivates through her Instagram account, she doesn’t take up every offer. “There were items I took from my clients and photographed but didn’t upload,” she explains. “There were items I didn’t connect with. The bottom line is that the Instagram is mine − its personal. It’s my home. My kids and friends are photographed there, and my fashion. I’m not a model, and I’m not versatile. I can’t be pretty and hold up anything that’s put on me. I’m not a hanger. Either it sits well on my personality or it doesn’t, otherwise it just doesn’t work.
“I define myself as an Instagram blogger,” she laughs, “or at least that’s how people on the street started calling me, because until then I didn’t think about it in those terms.”
Lisanksy’s success is not surprising. She has a casual grace that is apparent in most of her Instagram pictures. Her profile includes effortless fashion choices, photos of outings to restaurants and bars around town, and mostly lots of pictures of her children, creating a real and non-apologetic profile of someone who doesn’t just wear nice shoes but also has to pick up her kids from kindergarten and likes it.
“People are sick of the way things are being sold to them all the time,” Lisansky tries to explain the power of her kind of Instagram advertising. “They zap away from TV ads and are indifferent to emaciated models who look bored by the clothes they’re photographed in. It’s much more interesting to look at a cool figure who lives with the item of clothing and wears something she likes. I think that sells much better than anything else − definitely better than a banal professional campaign with models.”
“No one is forcing you to look at it. People look at my pictures because they follow me and like my personal style. On my account I show myself, and even if there are commercial items that I photograph myself wearing for money, they’re always mixed harmoniously with my wardrobe. I think that has a greater effect than any local magazine photo with 5,000 copies. I have more followers than those magazines − or some of them − have readers, and in order to advertise there you need to hire a photographer, models, a make-up artist and pay a lot of money for the ad itself. I also think I’m conducting a dialogue with my audience. People respond, ask questions and take an interest. In a magazine you’re just leafing through pictures and have no one to talk to.”
What do you do to make your pictures look good?
“On my Instush [Instagram gallery] I don’t retouch my pictures. After you get some experience you already know what the right lighting and angles are. I’m not photogenic and I need a couple of clicks before I get the good picture I’ll upload. It’s a wonderful illusion. The Instush creates a visual image that you’re responsible for. I know what I want to show the world.”
What makes you popular?
“I look sloppy, haven’t cut my hair in years and am too lazy to do a manicure. I just throw something on − and that’s my talent, it looks good. The biggest trend in fashion, beyond the usual nonsense of ‘let’s wear stripes today and royal blue tomorrow,’ is the effortless look. I can be a stay-at-home mom, wear socks and sandals and show fashion, fashion, fashion all day. Everyone chooses his moments and what he wants to show.
“You can do your homework, search on Google ‘how to look like a model’ and work on it. But in the end, in fashion you have to understand who you are and get down to your own essence. You have to realize your limitations and size. Stop trying to look like [the supermodel] Cara Delevingne. On Instagram it’s me and it’s my truth − otherwise it just doesn’t work.”